By Annie Byrne
BFF Bikes has held two women’s road cycling camps since 2018. The 1st camp was in Tucson, Arizona and the 2nd camp was in Southern California. Both camps were a big success in many ways and gives us assurance there is demand for this type of cycling camp and we should continue to grow this side of the business. So there will be more camps!
This blog post provides an overview of Camp BFF and what makes it unique. But first, a brief look at how the camp came to be as that serves an important reference in terms of what the overall goal of the camp is and what riders can expect. It has evolved in a way that continues to set it apart, and I expect it to continue to do so. This provides an update on where we are today and the shape Camp BFF is taking.
Background of Camp BFF
The idea for BFF Bikes to offer a winter cycling camp came to be in February 2017 when I went to Arizona to ride with a few friends. I had spent the whole winter training indoors, leading the Feel the Byrne training program at BFF Bikes. Going to Arizona to ride was the first time I had done this type of trip and I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. Sure, I knew it would be a ton of fun and great training, but it surpassed any expectations I had. The combination of warm weather, sunshine, friends, riding outside on a moving bicycle after training indoors, and riding in beautiful scenery up and down mountains made it impossible not to think: “This is amazing and everyone should have the opportunity to do this.”
That thought became a plan in the fall of 2017 when I was enrolled in the Goldman’s Sachs small business program. This program involved doing a lot of analysis and research that helped me learn more about the existing camps. I learned there are not many women’s road cycling camps and many cycling camps are very costly and felt out of reach for someone like me. I continued to develop a plan to hold cycling camps, and this resulted in me holding the first Camp BFF in February 2018 in Tucson, Arizona. I viewed this first camp as a pilot, with a major goal to learn lessons that would help me shape future camps and offer a wonderful experience. And learn I did!
I learned there is definitely a demand for the type of riding, support, and friendship offered by a winter women’s cycling camp. The experience I got planning the camp taught me many logistical details, which is important to the execution and growth of future camps. Beyond gaining experience from the first camp, it helped shape the 2nd camp in a direction I did not foresee. I was unsure if adding this new element to the camp would be well received, but I am happy to report, the campers provided feedback that it was indeed a wonderful experience. I am excited to see how future camp incorporate this.
Camp BFF: More Than Bikes
The new element to the 2nd camp came to be due to a new practice I developed as a direct result from the 1st camp. Now it’s time this blog acknowledges a major occurrence from the first camp that led to me finding this new practice: on the final ride of the first camp in Tucson, just a few miles away from the end of the ride, I had a bad accident and was thrown off my bike. I landed on my head, knocking me unconscious and was taken by helicopter to the hospital. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury and after five days in a coma and in the ICU, I spent a month in the rehabilitation unit. There is a lot I can say about that and what the recovery process has been like, but one detail that shaped the 2nd camp, is one of the practices that became a central part of my recovery and continues to be a central part of my life: meditation.
Meditation was recommended to me in the Spring following my accident. I never meditated before but I was eager to try just about anything that could help me feel better. I downloaded a guided meditation app and began a daily practice. I found daily meditation more than just helpful, but really necessary if I didn’t want to feel terrible. That necessity gradually changed over time, yet I was experiencing several big, long lasting impacts. I knew I would need to continue my meditation practice during the camp, and I thought it would be nice to open it up to others that were interested in joining. I decided to plan an optional morning meditation each day before the days ride.
Soon after I decided to incorporate meditation to the camp, I thought about how others may like to hear how I have benefited so much from meditation and how it can help them too. I thought how if I had known what is possible before, I would have loved to have started meditating sooner. Once again, it was hard not to think “this is amazing and everyone should have the opportunity to do this.” The accident made it so I could no longer ride a bike, which my life had previously revolved around, but this loss was replaced by a huge gain that made me feel like I was given a gift. I am very grateful for this and felt compelled to share it, so I decided to pursue this idea.
I did not know exactly how to describe what I wanted to share so it took me a good amount of time and thought as it was not easy to wrap my recovering head around, yet alone articulate the impacts. On top of that, I was not sure if people would be interested as it is not directly connected to cycling and this was a cycling camp afterall. Making the morning meditations and my talk optional and trusting people will be drawn to the opportunity if it is right for them gave me confidence it would be okay to add. Additionally, encouragement from friends and writing my thoughts helped immensely and got me to the point of feeling prepared to talk about how meditation has helped me and can help others.
The major addition and change to the 2nd camp was it included meditation, hearing my experience, and hearing how meditation can impact life both on and off the bike. It made for a really good discussion and I got really positive feedback from the riders and staff that they enjoyed this new element to the camp. I got a lot of joy out of sharing so I feel like I made the right choice to include this. It makes me excited to think Camp BFF can continue to offer this unique experience and be even more special.
It’s Still a Cycling Camp!
There are many pieces that make Camp BFF what it is but the biggest piece is the riding! Each day is organized around the rides, led and supported by a staff of coaches and mechanics, and me as the sag driver. The camp is geared for people who have spent the winter training, want to see their fitness gains, and use the experience as additional training and push themselves to reach new levels. The rides vary to provide a good mix and include practicing various riding skills and learning techniques to be a better rider. Coaches teach techniques that help climbing and descending skills, and how to ride in smooth and effective pacelines and echelons, all while taking in the stunning scenery and forming new friendships.
The rides are meant to be challenging and are not designed for people who want to have a casual, recreation style ride. A variety of levels are welcomed and encouraged as there is staff to support a range of speeds, so long as riders are willing to treat it as a training experience, learn, and work hard.
The evenings consist of a mix of activities, based largely on the local resources and offerings. For example, the first Camp BFF in Tucson included an evening where the professional cyclists living at the nearby Homestretch Foundation came to talk about training and goal setting. The second camp in California included an evening visit and soak in the hot springs in the mountains.
It is important to me that Camp BFF is a available option for many, so it is priced to be more affordable than a lot of cycling camps. The research I did showed most cycling camps were at a price point that would be hard for people that didn’t have a big budget for trips like this. Many of these camps also included features that raised the price, such as hotel accommodations, chef service and fine dining. To keep the costs down, Camp BFF is more budget oriented with staying in rental homes and more basic (yet nutritious!) meals. This style of shared housing and meals also adds further to the sense of community and forming new friendships, one of past riders favorite aspects of Camp BFF.
Good question!! The goal is to increase the number of camps and begin holding a fall camp in addition to winter camps. I will share news as soon as there is news to share! In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts, questions, and if you’d like to join the list to find out about future camps, please email me at email@example.com.
One last note: if you are thinking you’d like to give meditation a try, I use the Headspace app and highly recommend. The Basics course is a terrific starting point :)